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Friendship: A vital ingredient to a wonderful life

By Michelle L. Casto

So you are all grown up. You have responsibilities, duties and things to get checked off your to-do list. You are so busy and important -- but truth be told, when you have a chance to really feel, you sense that something vital is missing from your life.

Of course, your first thought is that you already have found your life mate, so it couldn't be love. Your next thought is that you have quite a nice family life. You've got money in the bank and you even go to the gym to work out (most weeks). What could possibly be missing?

The missing link
My friend, what’s missing is friendship. Attracting and nurturing solid friendships is fundamental to our overall happiness and well-being. The dictionary definition of friend is "a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard." Friends are people we go to when everyone else turns his back, when we feel lost and especially when we need to jump for joy. Good friends are food for the soul. A real friendship raises us to a higher level of being.

Henry David Thoreau once said, "The language of friendship is not words but meaning." I remember well when friendship was high on my list of priorities. It was back in junior high and high school, when my friends were everything. Whenever my gal pals and I would get together, of course there was a lot of babbling and giggling -- we were teen-aged girls -- but there were also the silent looks, smiles and inside jokes.

These moments are when the true meaning of friendship is found. We often didn't have to say a word – we just knew what the other was thinking. Perhaps you have girlfriends in your life now where there is this unspoken knowingness. If so, good for you!

Too busy to connect
Sadly, that powerful connection becomes lost among the trials and tribulations of being an adult. We put too many other things before intimacy. This is true in friendships and also in romantic relationships. When we stop making the relationship important, it naturally loses its luster and magic.

However, no matter how old we are, we never, ever outgrow our need to form close, loving and supportive relationships.

The whole idea of the importance of friendship got me thinking. I wanted to find out more, to find the research to support it. So I did a search on the internet for “friendship.”

You can find gazillions of sites on which to meet your soul mate or get out of debt or become rich through internet marketing. In fact, when I did my search, most of the sites were related to finding love. It seems as if finding love is more valued than finding a long-lasting friend.

The value of friendship
Well now, let's just analyze this, shall we? I mean, we're all friends here, right? I think we are being misled! I think a lifetime friend is exponentially more valuable than a temporary lover or a get-rich-quick scheme.

Friendship in its truest essence can touch our souls in a way that is pure and uncomplicated. The love and commitment of a true friend can get us through life's up and downs feeling better and stronger about who we are and our ability to cope with life. The best friendships show us our true selves, while at the same time challenging us to be more of who we are. Our friends see our good sides and our not-so-good sides, and they stick around to accept and understand us.

When we befriend someone, our perspective on our problems shift. We're not alone anymore! Now we have someone on our side, someone who wants us to succeed and be happy.

In one study I found that speaks to women's ability to deal with stress, Dr. Shelley Taylor of the University of California found that "befriending is the primary gender difference in adult human behavioral responses to stress. This method can improve immune functioning, mood and a host of other positive pay-offs. It pays to have friends and a partner to talk with during periods of stress." This goes for men as well. We all need support!

Making friends a goal
Sometimes, we happen across friends; other times, we need to make friendship-making a goal. If you would like to cultivate a new friend, take out a piece of paper and write down the kind of person you would like to have in your life. You may list things such as sharing common interests, trust and honesty, forthrightness and boldness, spirituality, family size -- anything you desire.

When you look at your list, you may realize that many of the things you want are the very same things you have to offer. If so, consider expanding it to include ideas and activities that you are not familiar with. One great thing about friends is that they can expand our landscape and take us to new places without ever having to drive.

Friends are good for you. They make you laugh, give you hope and encouragement and lighten the load of your life. Friendship is free for the creating. All you have to do to get a friend is to be a friend. That special bond of friendship makes for a wonderful life.

Michelle L. Casto, M.Ed., is a whole life coach, speaker and author of the Get Smart! LearningBook Series, which includes books and workbooks on romantic relationships, career development, life purpose/life strategy and stress management. Her coaching practice is Brightlight Coaching. To learn more or to subscribe to the Get Smart! Live Smart newsletter, visit or




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